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A spiny mouse

Rodents are mammals of the order Rodentia, characterized by two pairs of continuously growing incisors, one pair in the upper and one in the lower jaw. About forty percent of all mammal species are rodents, and they are found in vast numbers on all continents except Antarctica. They are the most diversified mammalian order, including mice, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, porcupines, beavers, guinea pigs, and hamsters, and can be found in a variety of habitats, including manmade environments. There are arboreal, burrowing, and semi-aquatic species. While the largest species, the capybara, can weigh as much as 66 kg (146 lb), many rodents weigh less than 100 g (3.5 oz) and have robust bodies, short limbs and long tails. They use their sharp incisors to gnaw food, defend themselves, and shape their habitat. Most eat seeds or other plant material. Many species live in societies with complex forms of communication. Rodents can be monogamous, polygynous, or promiscuous. The rodent fossil record dates back to the Paleocene on the supercontinent of Laurasia. (Full article...)

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From today's featured list

The embroidered star of an English order of Knighthood, with radiating silver rays, topped with a white Maltese cross and royal cypher in the centre

Ninety-seven Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order were appointed by King Edward VII, plus an additional 239 honorary Knights Grand Cross, between his accession to the throne on 22 January 1901 and his death on 6 May 1910. The Royal Victorian Order is an order of knighthood awarded by the sovereign of the United Kingdom and several Commonwealth realms. It is granted personally by the monarch and recognises personal service to the monarchy, the Royal Household, royal family members, and the organisation of important royal events. The order was instituted with five grades, the highest of which was Knight Grand Cross, which conferred the status of knighthood on holders (apart from foreigners, who typically received honorary awards not entitling them to the style of a knight). Of the 97 appointments, 6 were members of King Edward VII's own family, 3 were Indian princes, 1 was an archbishop, 31 were already peers and 56 were knights (including 8 baronets). Of the total substantive appointments, 30 were to serving commissioned officers, including General Sir John French and Admiral of the Fleet John Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher. Royalty feature heavily in the foreign appointments; the King of Greece was among them, as were the future kings of Norway, Denmark, Greece and Thailand. (Full list...)

Today's featured picture

Portrait of a Lady

Portrait of a Lady is a small oil-on-oak panel painting executed around 1460 by the Netherlandish painter Rogier van der Weyden. Using geometric shapes to form the lines of the woman's veil, neckline, face, and arms, the work conveys the subject's humility and reserved demeanour through her fragile physique, lowered eyes and tightly grasped fingers. This is the only known portrait of a woman accepted as an autograph work by van der Weyden, and has been described as "famous among all portraits of women of all schools". It is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Painting: Rogier van der Weyden

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